'Ireland, thou friend of my country in my country's most friendless days, much injured, much enduring land, accept this poor tribute from one who esteems thy worth, and mourns thy desolation' - George Washington
Ireland in its poetic beauty and endearing nature, has experienced some of the most turbulent years in modern history. Wracked with famine, poverty and a seemingly endless struggle for independence, Ireland’s history is as full of turmoil as it is rich with tradition. Yet, as it is shrouded by its charming culture, it’s almost too easy to forget the years of suffering that were endured by our ancestors and to relish in our ability to reinvent ourselves as a stronger nation.
As said by John B Keane, an Irish Playwright “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but rising every time we fall”
Ireland’s struggle for independence is particularly relevant as it we are celebrating our Centenary, one hundred years after the 1916 rising which is when Ireland, with the exception of 6 counties, became free and independent of British rule. Independence day may be celebrated primarily in the United States yet its profoundness is felt by us all. Speaking of Ireland’s involvement in the revolutionary war George Washington said that the Irish language was spoken commonly among the troops, as Irish and Irish-American soldiers constituted between 1/4 and 1/3 of the American Continental Army. Again, we can see the importance and vastness of Irish roots.
The word Independence holds a deep meaning for Irish people as many people were forced to be completely independent following the affects of the 1916 rising. In a time were Ireland was struck by extreme poverty, it was commonplace for people to embrace their hardships and carry on. One person in particular that did so is the generation that started our very weaving.
Philomena Mulhern could be considered the embodiment of independence, and its aptness that she happened to pass on independence day 5 years ago cannot go unnoticed. With a loom in a shed connected to her house, she raised eight children, some going on fifth generation weavers. A spinner herself, she would often retire to the loom house after a day of milking to spin for the loom. I think, that as the generation that started the tweed that we make each beautiful cape and jacket from, recognising the independence she maintained through her life is important as we come upon this independence day.
So as we celebrate independence on the fourth of July, its important to remember each and every struggle for independence and appreciate our ability to move on and grow stronger as a nation.
By Kerri O'Connor